While the quickest way to get from Florence to Venice (or the reverse) is to take a fast train, there are several interesting cities and towns to visit in between. If you have extra time, consider stopping in one or more of these places along the route. Although these towns can be visited as day trips, spending the night when there are fewer tourists really gives you a feel for the place and there’s a lot to see and do in each of them.
5 Cities and Towns to Visit Along the Train Line
- Bologna is an old university city known for its cuisine. Its streets are lined with more than 25 miles of porticoes built between the 11th and 20th centuries so even when it’s raining it’s a good place to be. The compact medieval center has several beautiful churches and monuments, including a medieval tower, Torre degli Asinelli, where you can climb the steep staircase to the top for a great view of Bologna. Piazza Maggiore, one of the central squares, is a good place to sit at an outdoor cafe and admire the Gothic Basilica of San Petronio and the Palazzo dei Notai. Next to it, Piazza del Nettuno has a 16th-century fountain of Neptune in the center and is surrounded by medieval buildings.
Take the 3-hour guided tour, Discovering Bologna for a look at the city’s highlights.
- Ferrara is a Renaissance town whose historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage site. About 6 miles of 15th century walls surround the center and you can walk or bike along them. Este Castle, built in 1385, is surrounded by a moat and has a large piazza in front of it where markets and special events are held. Inside the castle are frescoes and dungeons as well as a cafe and bookstore. There’s also a Romanesque Cathedral with Gothic additions. The historic Palio di Ferrara, dating from the 13th century, features events over several weekends in May.
- Monselice is a small, picturesque town at the edge of the Euganean Hills Regional Park. On the hill above town are the ruins of a castle, La Rocca, and you can visit the Monselice Castle in town on a guided tour (closed in January), see tour times on the web site, but the museums inside are only open from April through November. The small historic center still retains its defensive walls and is a pleasant place to stroll along the medieval streets. Piazza Mazzini is the main square. You can walk to a monastery on another hill above town where there are great views of the countryside.
- Montegrotto Terme, a short train ride from Monselice, is a spa resort town with Roman remains, a butterfly house, gardens, and wide, tree-lined streets with shops and cafes. In a villa just outside town is the Museum of Glass with Murano glass and archaeological finds. The next town along the line is Abano Terme, a bigger spa town that was built up in more modern times with many hotels although the original cathedral was built in the 10th century. There’s a park, an art gallery, a pedestrian zone in the center with shops, and places to walk. This area is primarily a place to relax and enjoy the thermal waters of the hot springs but there are cycling routes, summer concerts, and nice walks in the countryside.
- Padua, one of my favorite cities, is known for the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua, its old university and medical school dating from the 13th century, and Giotto’s fresco cycle inside the Scrovegni Chapel (buy Scrovegni Chapel tickets through Select Italy). Prato della Valle is said to be the biggest piazza in Italy. The grand Palazzo della Ragione sits between the two large squares, Pizza dei Frutti and Piazza delle Erbe. Frescoes cover the walls of the Palazzo and on the ground level is a big covered market bordering both squares. You’ll also find cafes and restaurants on the squares.
Florence to Venice Travel Tips
We advise against driving in Florence as much of the center is restricted and parking can be difficult. The entire city of Venice beyond Piazza Michelangelo is traffic-free so there a car is no use there. If you do decide to drive and explore the countryside between the two cities, rent a car when you’re leaving Florence and turn it in near Venice. Read our tips for driving in Italy for important information before you go.
Where to Stay:
- Bologna: Art Hotel Commercianti, Bologna is a 4-star hotel in a historic building just off Piazza Maggiore or for luxury go to the elegant Grand Hotel Majestic gia Baglioni, Bologna decorated with frescoes and antiques.
- Ferrara: We stayed at Hotel Annunziata, Ferrara on Piazza della Repubblica, the castle square, where our room had a great view of the castle.
- Montegrotto Terme: Terme delle Nazioni, Montegrotto Terme is a 4-star hotel with spa, 2 outdoor swimming pools, garden, rooftop terrace, and a restaurant.
- Monselice: Blue Dream Hotel, Monselice is a 3-star hotel with swimming pool on the edge of town.
- Padua: Hotel al Prato is a small, 3-star boutique hotel on Prato della Valle, a short walk from the Basilica of Saint Anthony and the historic center of Padua. In the center, Le Camp Suite and Spa Hotel is a 4-star modern hotel with spa. Or near the train station is the 4-star Hotel Grand’Italia.
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